French Senate Parliament elections

A French passion

The recent French Senate elections concerning about half the seats in‘le Sénat,’ the Upper House of the French Parliament, may have dominated the headlines for a few days, but the French, in general, were not particularly interested.

This was partly because the result, the loss by the left, ‘la gauche’, of its majority in ‘le Sénat’ was predictable. The French don’t vote directly for their senators who are elected by ‘les grands électeurs’, regional and local elected officials. ‘La gauche’ had won a majority in the Upper House for the first time in the history of the 5th Republic in 2011. However, in the local elections earlier this year, the right, ‘la droite’ made sweeping gains. The outcome of elections decided by many of these recently elected officials was never in doubt, hence a certain lack of suspense.

There was also the general ‘ras-le-bol’, the fact that many French people are fed up with their politicians. Although voting in elections is part of a French citizen’s duties, the percentage of eligible voters who actually bother to vote has continued to drop in recent years. Only the five yearly elections for the President seem to attract voters to ‘les urnes’.

None of this means though that the French have lost their love of debating and arguing about politics. If you want to eavesdrop on the conversations in cafés on market day or take an active part in discussions with French friends, you will need to know a minimum about French politics.

The French love to argue and politics is one of their favourite topics. In some countries, politics is a subject to be avoided so as to avoid hurting another person’s feelings. In France, even after a passionate and seemingly angry discussion involving opposing viewpoints, you’ll hear French people say that they have spent an enjoyable moment.

For the ordinary French voter, there was no obligation to trot off on Sunday morning to the polling station, ‘le bureau de vote’, and choose a ballot paper in the secrecy of  ‘un isoloir’, a curtained cubicle, before voting by putting this ‘bulletin de vote’ into ‘l’urne’, the ballot box. Consequently, the French may not have felt very involved in these latest elections.

Don’t be misled though. The French may show little interest in elections, but they still love talking about politics.

Kolibri Languages Practical Guide ‘Meeting the French’ will bring you more insights about the French and politics 

Pam Bourgeois



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